Sarkozy Keeping Nuclear Atop France’s Energy Pile

french-president-nicolas-sarkozy-at-flamanvilleFrench president Nicolas Sarkozy was in Normandy last week at the construction site of France’s first new nuclear reactor in two decades, highlighting plans to commence a second new reactor and,  according to Paris-based daily Le Monde (Google translation here), calling nuclear energy a key part of the country’s economic recovery plan. The move is evidence of further diversity in how countries are seeking to shape their energy futures via recovery plans, as President Barack Obama negotiates with Congress to keep renewable energy atop his plan and Canada’s latest budget pursues a heavy emphasis on carbon capture and storage.

A who’s-who list of French corporate heavyweights angling for a piece of Sarkozy’s action leaves no doubt that government dollars impact industrial strategy. French state-owned power giant Electricité de France (EDF) is building the reactor at Flammanville that Sarkozy visited last week, using the third-generation EPR reactor designed by French nuclear technology firm Areva. But Sarkozy says a second EPR to be built further up the Normandy coast at Penly will unite EDF and France’s number two player in electricity, GDF Suez; Reuters reported today that French oil and gas firm Total also wants a “double-digit” stake in the project.

Other firms are angling for a piece of Areva after Germany’s Siemens announced last month that it would sell its 34-percent stake in the otherwise French state-owned firm over the next three years. Steam turbine and train manufacturer Alstom has long wanted a piece, according to the Associated Press. Sarkozy said last week that his government is considering how to increase Areva’s ability to finance new projects. Areva is already building EPRs in China and Finland, has partnerships to build several in the U.S., and last week it added a deal to sell as many as six reactors in India says the AP in this story picked up by the Houston Chronicle.

Of course, most countries — including France — are hedging their bets. Sarkozy estimated last week that France would have to muster investment of 90 billion Euros to meet an EU requirement that members use 20% renewable energy by 2020. Canada’s CCS focus is tempered by investments in energy efficiency and nuclear. The U.S. plan would put at least some dollars in just about all of the above.

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This post was created for the Technology Review Potential Energy blog

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